Monday, October 20, 2014

Ice cream visitor to the Holy City...

 Douglas Quint was in good humor Sunday when he brought his Big Gay Ice Cream truck to town.

Charleston is part of his Southern Tour 2014

His brick and mortar stores are in New York City but he likes to hit the road

He was in Raleigh before here and heads to Atlanta next.

After that, the ice-cream-on-wheels heads to Birmingham, Alabama and Oxford, Mississippi.

 Crowds formed early and the line stayed long during his scheduled 3pm to 10pm stay.

I got there a little after five and the line was out of the parking lot of the sponsor Butcher & Bee and around the corner.

It was a younger, smiling crowd and conversations centered on what new clubs, bars and eateries had opened downtown.
 I stood on line for about an hour and stuck around to eat and enjoy my soft-serve Pecan Gobbler.

My buddy had the green-tinted Goodzilla cone, peppy and
covered with Wasabi pea dust.

The link above to the BGIC truck has pages that describe the different treats and the ingredients.

I also learned that "hard" ice cream is served at 0 degrees, while "soft" is presented at 20 degrees.

Being warmer has an impact on what you sprinkle or dip. Also it would be hard to form that little loop on top unless it's a softie.

I chatted with the young couple in front of me and stood behind Trevor Wagner long enough to memorize the tour route of the group he had enjoyed in Fayetteville, NC,  back in August.

Wilson, a hard rock group from Detroit, Michigan, should not be confused with another group named Wilson, Trevor advised.

I didn't. This is the correct link.

(Wasn't the ball Tom Hanks befriended in Cast Away named Wilson? That was the brand name stamped on the football  - his only companion while he was marooned.)

But - I digress.

Saw a few people doing a cone balancing act while trying to take photos with their phone cameras.

My point & shoot Canon sx260 is designed to fit in a tight grip as I take photos one-handed.

Himanshu Trivedi was snapping a shot of his son and not even a drop of ice cream was harmed in the making of this photograph.

I was still standing in line and did not have to cope with juggling camera and cone.

This was a good enough reason to come downtown on an Autumn Sunday afternoon.

Met some nice people and, after finishing my cold treat, wandered into The Daily, recently opened by Butcher & Bee, and chatted with the young manager.

She explained it was more than just a coffee shop.

The link goes into detail but what I caught was they sell beer and wine and Butcher & Bee allows BYOB so it's a win-win situation for both.

I took a peek inside the ice cream truck as Douglas was adding what looked like sea salt to a cone.

I would have asked him for details but the crowd of eager customers came first and I did not want to add any delay.

Besides, the sun was setting and it was getting cooler.

He did tell me he figured they had served about 250+ people that afternoon.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Yes, I am still on my diet.

How much could ONE cone matter?

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Caught in the act!

Thirty photographer joined me on a walk through the Historic District Saturday.

Half a dozen were from out of town but the rest were locals.

It was the 7th annual Scott Kelby World Wide Photo Walk and globally, involved more than 20,014 photographers in
1,052 cities, according to the WWPW website.

My photo group has done this before and, years past, staged four walks on the one day: Downtown, North Charleston, Mt. Pleasant and Summerville.

A man from Georgia tried to do all four!

This year we concentrated again on the Historic District.

Wandered from Waterfront Park, down the Battery and back up Meeting and side streets, and ended with lunch at Tommy Condon's.

The crowd quickly strung out as individuals stopped to concentrate on certain sights that caught the eye.

At times, I felt like I was herding cats!

Sometimes it meant getting down among the cobbles to get the angle you wanted.

Something about "no stone unturned" ran through my mind.

Enthusiasm ran high on this perfect weather day. A printed map indicated the general area and streets we would take but freedom to just roam around was the reality.

 All of the pictures taken will be uploaded and ONE will be selected as best of the day in Charleston.

It will be submitted to the Kelby folks to compete internationally for some pretty fabulous prizes.

 Canon cameras is one of the major sponsors this year.

It was a fun day and, because I would be one of the judges, my photos would not be in the composition.

I just stepped back to show what the others were doing and snapped a few whimsical scenes that caught my eye.

There is no "wrong" way to contort yourself to compose a photo.

 I saw a lot of variations on ways of getting the perfect shot.

I only saw one other person with a small, compact Point & Shoot digital camera.

Large, expensive DSLRs (Digital Single Lens Reflexes) were the order of the day.

That meant accessory bags and backpacks for additional lens and filters.

Saw a few tripods carried by some who wanted to explore 15-30 second long exposure shots, using Neutral Density filters, to create unusual effects.

I had made a decision 12-13 years ago when I put aside my bulky 35mm film cameras to embrace this new - much lighter - use of P/S cameras.

The aged door that takes you up to the belfry of the 1761 St. Michael's Episcopal Church had a splendid, weathered look that I liked.

No, I have never been up inside the steeple but have gone through the ground floor church and adjacent cemetery.

I didn't twist the knob but assume it was locked to keep out curious passers-by.

Several weeks ago I had toured high observation decks of old churches in 5 Central European countries.

Best views around!

I might look into getting a inside for a peek over my lovely hometown.

If it works overseas, it could work here.

 I suggested to a few they might want to go up to the rooftop of any of several downtown parking garages for spectacular viewpoints, and something different from street level.

Even with your feet flat on the ground, if you look around, and choose different angles, you can create something unusual.

I immediately saw that Charleston possessed possibly the world's largest water taxi.

Well, that's what the sign seemed to say...

in my carefully-planned view from Waterfront Park.

(Has everyone noticed the fountains have legal-looking signs warning there are no lifeguards on duty?)

Maybe another should warn against diving?

I suspect lawyers and insurance carriers are involved here.

As in years past, the group gathered at Tommy Condon's Irish pub and seafood for a refreshing lunch and beverage on the cool outside deck.

Despite all of the fancy cameras gathered, I got everyone's attention and snapped a group shot with my phone camera.

Not sure all saw the irony of that!

Then I asked everyone to place their cameras "in a pile" on the table to note the presence of DSLRs.

That is a LOT of equipment!

I hope YOU will join the 8th annual World Wide Photo Walk next year.

It's an excellent way to get out with fellow photographers and explore your own hometown.

As I used to say in ads when I promoted Southern California in my long-ago tourism days: "Millions of people come thousands of miles to see what we have in our own backyard."

(Click on the photo for more details).

Oh, and that shot of some tourists apparently "stealing" a cannon ball from White Point Garden, it is a fake picture.

I doctored it by moving objects around.
No police were involved.

No crime, no foul.

But, I noticed, there is no sign saying you CAN'T take one?

Would be quite a souvenir.

Enjoy living in the "Holy City"...or just visiting.

Always keep a camera handy. 

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Old ..and Recent.. European History

Budapest was where I saw the most graphic connections to past conquerers of Hungary.

This was taken in the House of Terror (Terror Haza) on Andrassy Ut. It displays pictures of victims executed inside the building's dungeon.

The tank was part of Soviet response to the 1956 Revolution. 2,500 died during the failed attempt for freedom.

The country endured 50 years of "double occupation," by the Nazi and then the Communists.

The Soviets left in 1991 and freedom was reborn.

This building was restored and dedicated as a museum to make sure the past was remembered as a guard against future terrors.

No pictures were allowed inside, which is strange. You'd think they would want the whole world to see the horrors the country endured.

Under the Nazis in 1944-45, Jews were marched down to the bank of the Danube and told to strip, remove their shoes and face the water.

Then they were shot in the back and the impact dumped the bodies into the river and were carried away.

A grim memorial, "Shoes On  The Danube," was created in 2005, showing 60 pairs of rusted period shoes cast out of iron.

Different sizes and styles show that nobody was spared.

The day I stopped to view, flowers had been placed in many of the shoes.

Relatives? Residents? Survivors? I don't know.

Very moving though as visitors like myself angled their cameras to record the scene.

A grim reminder of a horrible time.

Not all of the scenes were this solemn in Buda and Pest. Yes, two cities, divided by the Danube.

Pest, cosmopolitan and sprawling, abounds with historic sites and sights.

Buda, reached by climbing many, many steps or a swift funicular, is high up on Castle Hill, with great vistas.

Up there, we toured the Matthias Church, overlooked Fisherman's Bastion and snapped pictures of the magnificent Turul bird statue. Was all done in a few hours.

Apparently arrived at the same time as several busloads of foreign visitors. Shoulder to shoulder in some places.

Finished and hopped on the correct bus and was whisked back down to the larger city in a few minutes of scenic travel.

Wanted to take a closer look at the Chain Bridge, the first built of many bridges crossing the Danube.

Very impressive with the stately lions guarding each side.

A steady stream of visitors gave some activity to the scene.

I had read a suggestion that if you tilt your camera just a bit higher, you still capture the scene while eliminating the people below.

Here they add an element I wanted but I did use that suggestion in many crowded churches, synagogues and palaces.

The Hungarian Opera House is on Andrassy Ut., a boulevard described as "The Champs-Elysees"of Budapest.

It also was across the street from the 4-room flat (apartment) we rented for our stay in the Capital. Handy.

The English-Tour was late in the day on a rainy afternoon.

The very large crowd was divided into 4-5 tours in other languages.

As we all started out, it was a Babel of voices and accents.

The Barouque  and Renaissance Revival architecture dated back to 1884 and was carefully restored and enhanced on its 100th anniversary.

 We saw a familiar face at Freedom Square, also known as Liberty Square.

President Ronald Reagan was standing tall in a 2011 bronze statue honoring him as the man who ended the Cold War.

He stands close to the U.S. Embassy, facing a WWII  Communist Memorial dedicated to the Red soldiers who died in 1945 liberating Budapest from the Germans.

Locals are not pleased with it being there but agreements were made to let it remain.

Nearby is another reminder of the city's past - a monument to the victims of German occupation. This also is contraversal and was completed earlier this year, late at night, with police guarding the site.
 On a much lighter note, shops seem to offer a full array of whatever one wants or needs.

Wonder if the inflatable doll I saw being carried by a young man in Bratislava came from here?

Oh, never mind, it appears to be simply a store that sells lingerie.

Move along, nothing to see here.

And, speaking of moving along, one does not need to trudge along on sore feet to see all the sights.

The ubiquitous Segway has shown up in all of the cities on my tour.

The down side, it appears, is you are not allowed to steer with one hand as you hold your camera and take pictures with the other.

And I didn't see any cup holders on the two-wheel transports.

That church in the background is Saint Stephen's (Istvan's) Basilica.

Fantastic views of the city from the observation deck at the top. Sorry, no Segways allowed up there. You have to use your feet.

Walking around on our own, or, in his case, with a narrated tour, we saw the Hungarian Parliament Building.  It houses the Crown Jewels so security was tight and no photos allowed.

The twin-towers of the Great Synagogue were impressive as was the "Tree of Life" in the garden. This is the second-largest synagogue in the world, accommodating 3,000 worshipers.

This was the courtyard of our flat at Andrassy Ut 29.

We are on the second floor, on the right, with lights on.

It came with a kitchen and a washing machine but no dryer.

Hmm. We soon noticed an overhead drying rack with clothespins in the hallway and lowered it to hang our now clean laundry.

A rope and pulley raised it back up toward the tall ceiling.

(Click on the photos for more details).

A Metro stop was just a few doors away.

Beats a Holiday Inn anytime!

Did I mention I cancelled my dieting for this trip?

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Pour House: Music venue and canvas for artists.

For the last few years, The Pour House, a popular music Venue on Maybank Highway, has invited artists to come paint images on its walls.

I'll get in touch with Alex, the owner, and get details on how this came about.

It's bright, colorful and very imaginative.

A few night ago I was enjoying a band playing in Charleston for the first time and walked around looking at new murals and paintings.

I commented that I should come back in the daytime to take some pictures.

The next morning I remembered I had NOT remembered to close out my tab when I left. Duh.

That would explain why my credit card was not in my wallet.

You don't expect a phone call to be answered by a late night club early in the morning, so I called later in the day.

Yes my card was there and I could get it around 5 when the club's restaurant The Lot would open.

I drove out to West Ashley and my card was waiting for me. A $5 tip had been added - standard in cases like this - which actually was a little less than I would normally add to my bill.

Peace of mind restored., I wandered around, taking pictures of the colorful images.

A lot of artistic talent was on display.

"Homegrown Microphone" summed up the PoHo's encouragement of local musical talent.

In addition to the touring regional bands - and some national acts - that play inside, there is a very large outdoor deck area that hosts locals for free concerts.

Mainly cover bands, the tribute players outside have an elevated, covered stage with an excellent sound system.

Paintings adorn the walls out there too.

Daytime is the best time for photography but I have admired these at night as well.

The variety is truly amazing.

Views based on song lyrics abound as well as whimsical views of the world.

The Pour House celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this year and I salute the decision to make inside smoke free.

The deck was added to serve the smokers and evolved into an expanded outdoor show stage  with stand-up tables and its own bar.

And, plenty of paintings.

Started going to the venue when it was still on Savannah Highway.

I remember you were encouraged to bring and play your own copies of jam bands and other groups featured on "Wide Spread Wednesdays.

Wondered if their clients would trek further out when they moved into the new space, but that was not a problem.

On my latest visit I saw that the carpet had been ripped up and the concrete floor had been acid-washed.

I also saw the outdoor billboard being changed.

The top row shows who is playing outside on the deck.

The lower section lists the bands appearing inside the club.

I had seen Dead Winter Carpenters the night before.

It was their first time in South Carolina.

The 5-piece Alt-Country band from N. Lake Tahoe had it's touring bus break down and they were driving a rented van.

Enjoyed their sound and hope the bus is running again soon.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

*WSMFP refers to the after party for the 2-night appearance of Wide Spread Panic...WSP.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2014 Prague.

One of the benefits of photography is the sense of revisiting a scene.

Right now I have 4,339 digital memories, taken during two and a half weeks roaming through five countries in Central Europe.

I get a selfish thrill when I can recreate something I saw for less than a second and share it with others.

Cloud formations and a golden sun sending shafts of light everywhere are fun to capture.

But not always just sitting there, waiting for you.

It might be raining or there's totally no clouds.

You may have made plans to meet some people inside.

Or you emerge from a museum or castle and the light is all wrong.

But, when it all comes together, you snap the moment forever.

Capturing a great sunset, or the moments when twilight slowly changes the view, depends on luck.

When you do see the elements coming together for an exciting visual end of day, find a spot to relax, have a beer and watch for the moment.

That castle you just rode a tram up a steep hill to explore now looks majestic up there.

You walked up and down a lot of steps so a cold one is due. Have a seat.

This is Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic, and not even the halfway point of my photo vacation.

It is a romantic riverside location enhanced by graceful bridges and a skyline punctuated with medieval church steeples.

Wait a minute, that sounds a little bit like Charleston.

Which has TWO rivers.

Oh, but the churches are not nearly that old.

Point goes to Prague.

Prague Castle looms large across the Vitava River, above the Charles Bridge.

This scenic span connects the quarters near the castle with Old Town and it's sprawling Square.

Most of my day had been spent eating foods new to me and sampling local national beers.

Well, sure, I went up and toured the Castle and walked down to view the Charles Bridge from various angles.

What a great place for street photography!

And statues. Man, they have a lot of 'em.

Everywhere you looked there were religious monuments, and as the sun settled, beautiful lighting effects were created.

A photographer's lucky day.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

I just remembered I have several hundred more pictures I took with my phone camera.

More editing.

Yikes, I'll never be outside again to see a sunset.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

McCartney was in another band before Wings?

So Paul, John, George and Ringo came to town Friday and put on a rousing show at the Charleston Music Hall.

The group is called 1964 The Tribute  and three decades ago they started doing Beatles songs, clothes, haircuts, accents, mannerisms and even actual quips uttered by the originals.

The highly-appreciative audience liked when, midway through the show,  John announced "here's an oldie."

They formed in 1964 and have been fine tuning the "Fab Faux" presentation over the last 30 years.

The sound is pretty darned close and they play and sing in the style of each member of the original band.

The banter - Ringo and George are zinger targets - is spot on, as they say, and there are factual references and selections played from the early albums. All sounded very familiar to me.

True fans were pleased and sang along on every song. I saw some youngsters who probably were there with their grand parents.

I sat next to a man who had seen the real Beatles in a 1965 concert in Indianapolis. I attended my '65 concert in San Diego.

We both laughed and said this time we could hear the lyrics.

It was an early show, starting at 7:30 and ending around 9:30 after an intermission and an encore.

The show's promoter opened the show and said he had been asked if there was a Senior Citizen discount. He said "Yes, that's what's printed on the ticket.

In the spirit of the evening, I took a moment to set my camera to shoot some shots in black and white.

As I recall, all three Sunday nights of the Ed Sullivan Show were not broadcast in color when the British Invasion started in the early sixties.

Or, maybe our tv at home was not a color receiver.

The final song of the encore had the audience dancing in the aisles and doing the twist while standing.

John smiled as the applause died down and said "ONE more song? We had planned to do four but one it will be!"

He added, it was a medley of four songs so there you are.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Years ago I had seen an excellent Elvis impersonator.

I remember the fervor of the fans as they again enjoyed seeing a performer they had missed.  

I think members of a tribute band carry that feeling and strive to recreate a pleasurable time in music history.

Worked for me.

It was an Easy Day's Night.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Just try to blend in...."

 People like to travel for a variety of reasons. I just touched down in five Central European countries and took away some treasured memories.

And 4,339 digital photographs.

You travel to see something new.

Tour centuries-old museums for a long, long look back.

Seek quirky and out-of-the-way spots. Get "off the beaten path."

Meet people from other cultures.

Practice new language skills. Be dazzled by different architecture.

Or, listen to music in a "real" Opera House and tour its many extravagant salons and private chambers.

Be sure to see the luxury and comfort that kings and princes and churchmen built in their palaces, vast estates, cathedrals and synagogues.

Some like to hike out on their own.

Others like the economy, convenience, group safety and shared interests of a structured tour.

I joined a few walking tours - usually limited to about a dozen participants - so the guide could be easily heard and be able to answer questions.

You quickly realize  Oops! when you form up in a foreign language tour group. I stepped away because I was there to learn or be amused and my speaking only English would make that difficult.

Actually, my Smartphone had a Translator application that made me comfortable if I had to read/translate a sign or a warning, a menu or historical plaques in other languages.

Very rarely was I in a situation where assistance or service was not available in English.

Hand gestures and pointing to objects and nodding was also effective for me to communicate overseas.

A stop  for the day in Bratislava in Slovakia was my only experience in that former Communist country.

Germany - and especially Berlin -  had been divided among a host of nations after WWII.
The German invasion and occupation - followed by a Communist takeover - prevailed in Prague, Salzburg, Vienna and Budapest.

All of that changed in the Collapse of the USSR in 1989 - 1991.

The Old Town Square has four noted whimsical sculptures that visitors seem to want in their photos.

My favorite is "The Workman" taking it easy in his manhole, eyeing the passers-by.

After a truck rolled over him, a sign was erected which said, naturally, "Men Working."

People hear that if you rub his face - specifically his nose - you will receive good luck.

These same people may not know the face is a popular stopping spot for passing dogs. Wash your hands.

All of these popular bronzes - and one made of silver - catch your attention but I was watching a young man in a hurry.

He and his "friend" were passing by, joining a crowd leaving Old Town.

Obviously he would have been less obvious had he deflated the doll and perhaps tossed it into a back pack.

But then, I would not have had a chance to capture a small slice of life in a capital nicknamed "Little Big City."

Does Reno, Nevada know this?

 The young man was unfazed and was successfully blending into the crowd.

It was getting late in the day and people were heading home or to a hotel.

Me? I was heading to catch the train to drop down on the map to pass through part of Austria and end up in Budapest.

As it happened, the train was delayed nearly two hours, making its arrival in Hungary after the Metro had stopped running.

But, that's another story of this trip and things turned out OK. (Click on the photos for more details.)

Was the man with the inflatable rushing from a party or heading to join one.

Well, he had a date with him.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

"Blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles...."

Being retired with plenty of time to travel is good.

I recommend it for everyone.

Not being smug, but in the past I have been to London and Glasgow.

Dublin, "Northern Ireland," and a weekend of Oktoberfest in Munich.

Amsterdam and a picturesque train ride down to Bruges. All fine destinations.

But I wanted to revisit Berlin. Last time I was there in 1981, The Wall was up. November 9 will be the 25th anniversary of it coming down. It was a divider between Communism and Democracy for 28 years.

On this visit, my hotel was located in what used to be East Berlin and I was able to go up to the rooftop terrace and inside the glass dome atop the Reichstag Building, home of the German Parliament.

Ramps let you walk higher and higher for a spectacular view over the entire city.

It was a clear day and the photos were rewarding.

It's also open for evening/night photography. All require advance planning and registration.

The 8-hour flight from Newark was tracked on individual screens at each seat.

We reached an altitude of 40,000 feet and - with a tail wind - hit 600 mph. The images even showed us where daylight would appear again.

This part of the journey was aboard a United Boeing 757 and the return would be on a 2-aisle widebody Airbus flown by Lufthansa.

The foreign carrier differences included sandwich snacks, a hot meal served along with metal silverware and free wine, beer and Cokes.

Our domestic airlines have gone in the opposite direction, charging for basic amenities I used to take for granted.

Unless you fly first class, meals, free alcoholic beverages and being handed hot towels for your hands, are in the distant past.

On the way to Germany, the sun rose just as the small screen said it would and a sense of excitement and anticipation could be felt.

The short nighttime period had ended and this was a new day.


The soap bubbles were in our future like these I saw in Prague in the Czech Republic on Old Town Square.

I visited many of the well-known popular places in five countries and joined the merry throngs.

But also sought and found off-the-beaten-path sights and experiences.

Yes, travel is fulfilling and educational.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

My successful diet was put on hold for this trip. The different beers, new ways to have coffee prepared (with a slice of cake) and spectacular meals were offset by 4-mile fast-paced walking tours, hikes up stairs in castles and palaces and wandering through churches and opera houses.

I regained only 3 pounds!

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